One of the first Korean dishes that I modified when I started cooking Korean food was gamjatang (감자탕, spicy pork bone soup). You see, I love this soup and ate a lot of it when I lived in Korea, especially my first year and generally after drinking. While it’s perhaps not as famous as a ‘hangover cure’ as haejangguk (해장국, hangover soup), it works just as well.
Unfortunately, I always found picking the meat off the bones hard on my hands after a while (I have arthritis in my hands and have since I was 16 so using them for fine work – like chopsticks – for extended periods of time is painful). Which meant I left a lot of meat on the bones.
So when I returned to Toronto, I set about trying to recreate the soup – but without the bones. Along the way, I came up with a quicker version that’s pretty close the original soup – a boneless gamjatang. Now perhaps this isn’t for purists as there is no bones to pick the meat from but it’s still a nice soup. And it’s easier to eat. ^^
While we’ve used most of these ingredients before, there is one new one – perilla seed powder (들깨가루, deulkkaegaru). Perilla seed powder gives the soup a slightly nutty flavour.
Side note: this is one dish were the name is a little misleading as gamja (감자) means potato but the soup doesn’t always have potatoes. Plus gamjatang is generally translated into ‘spicy pork bone soup’ or simply ‘pork bone soup’ not ‘potato soup’.
Boneless Gamjatang Recipe
- 2-3 lb pork shoulder or pork loin*
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth for roasting the pork
- 10 cups vegetable broth (or water) for soup*
- 6 potatoes (감자, gamja), cut into large chunks
- 1 small Napa cabbage, or half a large one (배추, baechu), sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 14 perilla leaves (깻잎, kkaetnip), sliced
- 1 package enoki mushrooms, washed and pulled apart
- 1 green chili peppers, chopped coarsely
- 3 tbsp Korean red pepper powder (고추가루, gochugaru)
- 1 tbsp Korean red pepper paste (고추장, gochujang)
- 1/2 tbsp soybean paste (된장, doenjang)
- 3 tbsp perilla seed powder (들깨가루, deulkkaegaru)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp soju or rice wine
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tbsp ginger, finely minced
- salt to taste
First make the pulled pork
- Trim off any major excess fat and season the pork shoulder or loin with the salt and pepper.
- Put it in a roasting pan and pour broth on top.
- Cook uncovered, in a 350°F oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until fork tender. Baste it occasionally with the liquid. Let the pork cook undisturbed for 1 1/2 hours and then check it. It’s done when it pulls apart easily with a fork.
- Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a plate to cool. Discard liquid. Once cool to touch,pull it apart with a fork.
- Use immediately, or keep in fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months
*Tip: You can do this with a large shoulder or loin and freeze it after it’s pulled to make a quick, after-work meal. I get two large pots of soup from one roast. Loins are a leaner cut and generally aren’t used for pulled pork but by cooking with a broth, you negate the problem as the liquid keeps it moist.
Now, make the gamjatang.
- Pour 10 cups of vegetable broth (or water) into the pot.
*Tip: You can use pork broth to give it a more authentic taste.
- Mix together in a small bowl the red pepper powder, red pepper paste, soybean paste, perilla seed powder, minced garlic, soju, fish sauce, and minced ginger to make the sauce.
- Add the sauce from the mixing bowl to the broth, along with 3 cups of shredded pork and bring to a boil.
- Cut up your veggies. The potatoes should be chopped into large chunks (quarters for smaller potatoes or eights for bigger ones), cabbage and perilla leaves sliced into bite-sized pieces, and the pepper. You also need to wash and pull apart, into small bite-sized bunches, the mushrooms.
- Add the potatoes and cabbage, cover, and simmer for an additional 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are almost cooked. Add salt to taste.
- Add remaining vegetables (mushrooms, perilla leaves and pepper), cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Garnish with some chopped green onions and season with salt if desired. (I don’t but that’s just because I don’t like onions of any kind.)
- Serve with rice and kimchi. Enjoy!
Our boneless version of gamjatang can be made in under an hour (not counting the pulled pork which can be made in advance) and is a nice nourishing meal for those cold winter evenings (or spring ones if you live in Toronto). Plus it works well as a hangover remedy as well.
And as always, please let us know what you think of our recipe! We love to hear from you. ^^